s.a. Godiva n.v.



There's a whiff of chocolate in the air as I approach Godiva's headquarters/factory in an inner city area about two miles from downtown Brussels. The word "Godiva" in big letters near the top of the four-story structure lets me know I've found the place. The picture accompanying this story shows you it's not the best of areas as you can see by the graffiti sprayed on the wall near the entrance.

The snazzy and modernistic reception area is a world away from the exterior. Glass displays built into the walls elegantly show-off some of Godiva's product line. Visitors settle down on an orangish-red sofa or two chairs. On a far wall hangs a painting of a sexy-looking, six-foot tall Lady Godiva astride a horse (which is the company's logo).

I meet with Mark Adriaenssens, Director-Research & Development/Quality Assurance Europe. The Draps family founded a chocolate & sweet-making workshop in Brussels in the 1920's with the first praline in 1926. Godiva was set up in 1946 and moved to its current location. About 300 people work in the over 200,000 square foot factory/head office.

Being hemmed in on all sides by housing makes delivering supplies to the factory a problem. Trucks block traffic while unloading and loading. Why doesn't the surrounding area raise a stink? Godiva provides employment for many in this low-income neighborhood.

Depending on traffic it's 25 to 40 minutes to the airport, five minutes to the nearest freeway and, directly across the street there's a subway stop. Parking is tight with directors and early shift workers getting reserved parking spots. Cold sandwiches are served in the company cafeteria, smoking isn't allowed in offices (except for a designated smoking room) and there's no formal dress code with Fridays being casual dress days. Names of meeting rooms include the Godiva Room and Draps Room (name of the founding family). Joseph Draps set up the Godiva company in 1946.

Any employee perks? At work employees can eat all the chocolate they want for free. If that doesn't satisfy their sweet tooth then employees get 50% on goodies taken home.

For those of you out there thinking working in a chocolate factory would be paradise for your nose–think again. The receptionist has been here for almost 20 years and Adriaenssens for a couple of years. Though there's that unmistakable sweet scent of chocolate in the air, neither says they can smell it.

Usually chocolate companies have samples for visitors in the reception area. I don't see any and ask Adriaenssens why. It turns out to be an oversight as the receptionist quickly brings out a tray. Adriaenssens suggests having some but, I decline. Why? I can't eat just one. Once I start there's no stopping.

I can't see the CEO's office because there currently isn't a CEO. Godiva is owned by Campbell Soup Company, though for some reason you won't find that kernel of information on either Godiva's or Campbell Soup Company's website.

Before heading out the door I'm given a two-pound box of assorted chocolates. I've never tried Godiva chocolates before and end up in the evening having a chocolate fest in my hotel room. Every chocolate in the box is sampled. The verdict? Two thumbs up.

Company website: www.godiva.com

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